The big numbers behind USC and UCLA’s Big Ten travel costs

Goodbye, power naps in the air to Northern California and snappy two-hour flights to Colorado and Arizona State.

Time — in a few years — for USC and UCLA athletes to strap on their neck pillows, take a trip to the campus bookstore for some quality reading in-flight, and embark on marathon trips across the country to Pennsylvania and Ohio to prepare.

With news Thursday morning that the Trojans and Bruins are leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten conference, travel and working with athletes’ timetables could prove more difficult given the Big Ten’s road trip situation. Conference programs focus on the East Coast, like Rutgers and Maryland, or cluster closer to the Great Lakes, like Northwestern and Michigan State.

USC and UCLA Big Ten travel challenges

Nebraska players walk onto the field at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln before their spring game in April.

Nebraska players walk onto the field at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln before their spring game in April. Conference games against Nebraska — UCLA and USC’s closest Big Ten opponents — would still mean a long flight.

(Rebecca S. Gratz/Associated Press)

  • Suppose UCLA football took a road trip to an away game in Nebraska — the closest institution in the Big Ten to Los Angeles schools, just 1,537 miles away. Via Google Maps, that’s about a 22-hour drive, depending on traffic, or a five-hour flight.
  • The farthest school from UCLA in the Pac-12 is Washington at 1,132 miles. Under a three hour flight. That’s still 400 miles less than the nearest school in the Big Ten, Nebraska.
  • The furthest school from UCLA in the Big Ten is Rutgers, about 2,800 miles away and more than a five-hour flight away. Traveling to Penn State by plane would take more than six hours.
  • The average distance from UCLA to another school in the Pac-12 — excluding USC — is about 735 miles. The average distance from UCLA to a school in the Big Ten is about 2,160 miles.

Sports like football, which have the advantage of a week between games and are simply played less often, will be easier to coordinate. But programs like USC Baseball and UCLA Softball — which played 53 and 61 games respectively in 2022 — could feel the brunt of travel.

From March 19 through May 8, the start of Pac-12 play last season, USC Softball took four road trips against Washington, Stanford, Oregon State and Arizona State. That was 12 days in less than two months. In the 2024-25 school year, two-hour rides will turn into nearly full-day rides, which will only increase the time athletes spend.

Teams like USC Volleyball, on the other hand, don’t have the advantage of staying in one location for multiple days for a series of games. Last season’s carousel included a trip to Colorado on November 5th, then Utah on November 7th, then Oregon on November 12th and the state of Oregon on November 14th. Such a road trip could now include stops in Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland.

Time for future recruits to get comfortable typing their interim jobs amidst the roar of a jet engine. The big numbers behind USC and UCLA’s Big Ten travel costs

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